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Sunday, March 26, 2017

While the National Rifle Association is not best known for its environmental conscientiousness, its self-proclaimed status as “the number-one hunter’s organization in America” does give it a vested interest in preserving wildlife and its habitats. Since 2008, however, this interest has been slowly undermined by the oil and gas industry’s increasingly aggressive contributions to the NRA and other conservative sportsmen’s organizations. According to Matt Lee-Ashley’s recent report for the Center for American Progress, the NRA is joining oil and gas corporations in “reshaping American energy, land, and wildlife policy.”

Last week, Clayton Williams Energy Inc., a large oil company in Texas, made a $1 million contribution to the NRA. This large sum raised the suspicions of New York City comptroller Scott Stringer, who expressed concerns about “both the magnitude and the corporate purpose” of the donation. Stringer’s interest in the matter stems from his role as investment advisor and trustee to the $150 billion New York City Pension Funds, which have more than $3 million invested in the energy company. Given how little a group like the NRA has to do with CWE’s business, it certainly seems that there could be ulterior motives behind the money.

Last Monday, Stringer noted, “The reported contributions are extremely large for such a small company and seem intended to further the political views of its chairman and CEO rather than the interests of the company itself.” And it would appear that the political views of oil and gas companies across the nation are being furthered by their donations to sportsmen’s groups like Safari Club International (SCI) and the NRA.

In 2012 alone, six oil and gas companies — including CWE — contributed between $1.3 and $5.6 million to the NRA. In fact, CWE is the top contributor to the NRA outside of the firearms industry, and ranks as one of the top seven biggest donors overall. CWE’s generosity to the NRA continued despite their significant losses this year (the company is down $24.8 million, or $2.04 per share, according to its annual report).

As the oil and gas industry generously support sportsmen’s groups, they appear to be turning away from their constituencies in favor of the energy industry’s causes — specifically, mining, drilling, and logging in areas previously preserved for wildlife.

In 2011, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) introduced the Wilderness & Roadless Area Release Act, which proposed removing “approximately 43 million acres of Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) and Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs)” from federal protection. These lands would potentially be used for “timber harvests, oil and gas development, [and] motorized recreation.” Hundreds of wildlife managers and scientists, as well as sportsmen’s groups, protested the bill, calling it “an affront to a long-standing public process and our outdoor heritage.”

But despite the NRA and SCI’s supposed dedication to the interests of these individuals, both groups lobbied for the bill.

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